Last Week’s Question
In last week’s column,
I shared Ron’s complaint about the way that his league handles
waiver wire transactions. Ron’s current league gives waiver
wire priority to the team with the worst record, but Ron prefers
the method used by his old league: a blind bidding system that uses
waiver wire dollars (not real money) and gives all teams an equal
chance at desirable waiver wire acquisitions.
Most leagues that
use one of these systems rather than the other do so for reasons
that make sense in the context of the league, but some commissioners
simply use whatever system they are familiar with. If you don’t
have a compelling reason for handling waiver transactions the
way you handle them, you might want to consider some of the opinions
and arguments that readers of last week’s column shared
I’ll start with a response from Mike because he is Ron’s
most vocal supporter:
I agree with Ron, I would not participate in a league
with [a worst-to-first waiver priority] rule. My league puts the
responsibility on the owner to be active on the boards and pay
attention to football news. All of our free agent players are
listed—[and owners acquire them on a] first-come first-served
[basis]. What happens is that you have some owners picking up
free agents while others stay the course, which means that owners
have to pay attention and participate in order to have a chance
I’ve been in leagues such as the one Mike describes, and
I think they are a great fit for certain kinds of people. If you
unlock team rosters the second the Monday night game is over and
let everyone go crazy with roster changes, there definitely is
a reward for paying attention and moving quickly. But many of
the folks who participate in fantasy leagues aren’t that
serious about fantasy sports. They may not have an internet connection
at home; they may go to bed before the Monday night game ends;
they may simply prefer to have a few days each week to mull over
their decisions before doing anything in conjunction with the
waiver wire. Jimmy wrote in on behalf of such folks:
I am in a league where in which the worst teams get first
crack at free agents on the waiver wire (which I think is a
fair way to do it). We have one owner who would rather do it
like they do in his league, where the first one to post [a waiver
request on the] computer gets the player. In my opinion, this
is a terrible way of handling free agents.
Brian appears to share Jimmy’s opinion:
My league uses the worst-to-first [method] for waiver wire
We used to do a free-for-all at 9am on Tuesday, but one guy
set his computer’s clock to the atomic clock and at 9:00:01
he would be on the waiver wire and before 9:02, he would have
2 or 3 of the best pick ups on his team. Consequently, he won.
Plus, if your train was late or you couldn’t be in front
of the computer at 9am on the dot, you were SOL. So now we do
waivers on all players until 5pm Tuesday. Picks go from worst
to first, then after everything is processed, it goes to free-for-all
for all free agents.
If you got a player, you go to the back of the line for that
week. On Saturday, another round of players on waivers is processed
using the adjusted waiver order.
It’s fine for folks like Mike and Jimmy to disagree, but
you want to end up in a league with other people whose attitudes
about fairness in fantasy football correspond roughly to your
own. It sounds like the unhappy camper in Jimmy’s league
would be better off in Mike’s league.
However, it may be difficult for every owner to find the exact
right league for his own sense of what fairness should dictate
concerning waivers. I’ll share a number of subtle variations
on this theme for commissioners who are trying to tweak their
own systems. A different Mike wrote in concerning an extremely
I like our league rule, which gives waiver replacement
pick preference in reverse order of YTD points. However, what
really makes it work well is the fact that “Injured Reserve”
moves take precedence over “Drop Moves.” This takes
a lot of the "coddle the inept" opinion out of the
picture. For example, this year, one of our members spent a
lot of his auction points for highly regarded Marc Bulger, who
tried to play through broken ribs and is now on I.R. That last-place
owner is not inept, but just unlucky due to injury. This rule
also gives the owner with an injury situation extra consideration
over another owner who just wants to drop and replace a player
on his bye week. Furthermore, let's suppose the league-leading
owner has a stud RB blow out a knee or whatever: if that week
there are 2 other owners who have I.R. moves at the RB spot,
he knows that he's going to get at least his 3rd best choice,
instead of 7th or 8th, which would be a typical waiver wire
week in our pool.
There’s a lot to like about what Mike writes. First off,
I can definitely see the value of stressing YTD points over a
win-loss record. Teams that are stacked at all positions and happen
to have unluckily lost two or three games by a point or two probably
don’t need help as much as those that are struggling to
field a complete WR corps. I can also see the justification for
putting injured player replacements ahead of moves made because
one is dissatisfied by a player. It’s one thing for the
owner of Maurice Jones-Drew to decide that he no longer wants
Mojo because Fred Taylor is getting too many carries. But it’s
another thing for the owner of Cadillac Williams to have to replace
a runner who has unexpectedly been lost for the season.
I’m just one FFer who happens to think Mike’s league
makes a meaningful distinction, but I can also see how some owners
would disagree. In the end (such owners might argue) production
is all that matters. If I need to replace a guy because he isn’t
getting enough carries and you need to replace a guy because he’s
injured, why should your motive carry more weight than mine? In
the end, we’re both just trying to win.
I have no trouble seeing the question of how to handle waivers
from multiple perspectives, and apparently I am not alone, as
Marc’s note indicates:
Our league operates under the WW conditions that Ron doesn’t
like. And while we've contemplated change (for the reason that
Ron mentions) the league vote has always managed to strongly
favor the bottom feeders getting the priority on the WW. All
of our owners are active, and pay attention, so Ron is right,
there’s usually nothing but scrubs left once the bottom
feeders have taken their choices. But you know what that does?
It helps makes the league competitive. And we enjoy it. Every
year, it comes down to the last 2 weeks to decide the playoffs,
and it's fun as hell watching several 7-5 teams battling it
out for the last 2 playoff spots. Those 7-5 teams probably wouldn’t
be where they were had they not had early WW pick-ups. It also
gives those who are off to a rough start a little hope....so
they dont feel like their season is done if they start off 0-3,
or 1-4...knowing they have a shot at improving their team for
the following week.
If we look strictly at the fairness factor, there’s a lot
to be said for Ron’s complaint. But Marc reminds us that
the fun factor may be a more important consideration in some leagues.
And he’s absolutely right. If I start 0-3 and do not get
waiver wire priority, I can end up overwhelmed by apathy. That’s
not just bad for me; it can be toxic for the league. (I’m
sure we can all recall instances when teams we were competing
against for a playoff spot picked up an easy win over an owner
who had simply given up and left 3 players on byes in his lineup.
The fairness factor and fun factor may not be so easy to divorce
Of course, some leagues that use the worst-to-first approach
do so because they’re not sure how a bidding system would
work. Such leagues might want to consider a model such as the
one sent in by Mark (not to be confused with Marc above):
In our league, you get 20 waiver points for the year and
can bid up until Thursday at noon. Highest bid gets the player,
then open waiver moves [can be made] after 5PM on Thursday.
You can use if/thens to bid on multiple players. Here is an
example of what one player put together this week(he only wanted
1. Earnest Graham 8 points drop Cadillac Williams
2. Michael Pittman 6 if I don't get Graham (If I get Graham
then 3 points) Drop Cadillac Williams first then Anthony Gonzalez.
3. Sammy Morris 6 if I don't get Graham or Pittman (3 points
if I get one of them). Drop Cadillac Williams first then Anthony
4. Dominc Rhodes 6 points if I don't get any of the above (3
points if I get one of them, 0 if I get two RB's above). Drop
Cadillac Williams first then Anthony Gonzalez.
5. Patrick Crayton 8 if I don't get any of the above (2 points
if I get Graham, 4 points if I get Pittman, Morris or Rhodes,
0 points if I get 2 RB's). Drop Cadillac Williams first then
6. Dallas Clark 6 if I don't get any of the above (2 points
if I get Graham, 4 points if I get one of Pittman, Morris, Rhodes
or Crayton, 0 points if I get 2 of the above). Drop Cadillac
Williams first then Anthony Gonzalez.
7. NYG Def 1 point- only if I don't get two of the above. Drop
Cadillac Williams first then Anthony Gonzalez.
8. Titan Def 1 point- only if I don't get two of the avove.
Drop Cadillac Williams first then Anthony Gonzalez.
My thanks to Mark for sending the example along with the explanation.
I know it looks complicated, but it’s pretty easy to follow
if you read it line-by-line. I think this system does a good job
of combining straightforward logic with a great deal of flexibility.
Just as there are subtle variations on bidding systems, there
are subtle variations on the worst-to-first approach. Anthony’s
league uses a method of graduated time windows that should be
fairly easy for other leagues to imitate:
In our league, Sunday beginning at noon you are not
allowed to pick up anybody and the system is locked until Tuesday
morning at 7am. At 7am on Tuesday the bottom 3 teams are allowed
to pick up 1 person. Beginning at 8am the rest of the league is
also allowed to pick up 1 person for that day. No one is allowed
more than 1 acquisition on Tuesday. Beginning at 12:01 Wednesday
morning any player in the free agent pool can be picked up by
anybody once again until Sunday at noon.
It’s hard not to like the elegance of Anthony’s
approach. It’s also hard not to like answers as thorough
I think Ron needs to buck up a bit. He's the one walking around
crying after a 4-0 start? I've often been in the same position
as Ron over the years, but there are three reasons I think this
waiver system is so common and why it works.
Kim wasn’t the only reader who took issue with Ron’s
equation of ineptitude with a poor starting record. Mark (the third
Mark of this column, I believe—and telling you not to confuse
him with Marc or Mark above won’t make things any less confusing)
had this to say:
1) It's modeled after the NFL's own system. Teams with worse
records get first dibs on the waiver wire. Why shouldn't fantasy
football stick to that example?
2) Fantasy football is more fun when the whole league is competitive
and giving teams with the worst records first choice of waiver
pick ups helps make for a more competitive league.
3) If you do your homework at fantasy football, you can get
ahead of the curve on a lot of the "pickup of the week"
players. Dwayne Bowe has been putting up good numbers for 3
weeks straight now. I picked him up last week because I knew
there was no way I'd have a chance at him if he really went
off. If he hadn't panned out, I could've checked him out for
a couple of weeks and dropped him. I realize not all players
on the waiver wire are like this since some players are waiver
darlings because of another player’s injury (Earnest Graham
for instance) but I'd advise Ron to pick up Selvin Young this
week if he thinks there's any chance he's going to hit it big
because otherwise he only has himself to blame.
Not all fantasy owners end up on the bottom of the heap because
they are lazy or don't pay attention. Luck plays a role especially
with injuries so why shouldn't those owners have first chance
at redeeming their season a bit and getting back into the mix.
The rich getting richer isn't a recipe for a fun fantasy season
except the 2 or 3 "rich" owners. The rest will say
"the hell with it". That leads me to my biggest pet
peeve, when you get 50-75% of the way through the season and
there's 1-2 owners who are just phoning it in because they're
out of it. The waiver system that most leagues utilize (and
Ron so detests) guards against this to some degree and it should.
Giving waiver preferences to teams with losing records is not
necessarily "coddling the inept." Early in the season
there may be many reasons why a team has a losing record, such
as injuries to key players. For example, I'm now 1-3. I lost one
game by the slimmest of margins when Jon Kitna went out for half
the game with a concussion. He came back into the game, but it
wasn't quite enough. I lost another that would have been winnable
had Andre Johnson not sprained his knee the week before. My one
win should have been a loss (due to Marvin Harrison getting hurt
in the 1st quarter this last week), but the poor schmuck I was
playing against was stuck with a surprisingly inactive Laurence
Maroney on Monday night.
This Week’s Question
Also, being "wrong" about a player in any given game
may not be the owner's fault because events out of left field
may change how things unfold. For example, who knew McNabb would
be on his rump half the night and unable to get the ball to Kevin
Curtis this past Sunday? The point is, this early in the season
it's impossible to tell who's inept and who's just had really
bad luck. Over the course of a full season these things shake
out, but not necessarily in the short term. And giving waiver
preference to teams with losing records helps to balance out some
of the luck involved. Last year a guy started 6-0 in my league
with a below-average team, lost his last 7, and missed the playoffs.
Your questioner may not be quite the genius he thinks he is.
I have half a dozen more responses that I’m eager to share
with readers, but this column has already gone well past its usual
length. So in fairness to my readers (who can probably only stand
to think about this topic for so long) and to those who wrote
in (who deserve to have their thoughts read—not just skimmed
by exhausted readers), I’ll extend this discussion to next
If you have further thoughts or comments on how waiver wire questions
should be handled, I’ll consider including those in next
week’s column. Thoughts on fairness are of course welcome,
but I’m primarily interested in particular models for handling
the waiver wire (whether your league uses a worst-to-first or
Trap Game: Houston at Jacksonville:
Beware!!!!! I’m on a roll. The last two weeks I have successfully
picked the Bears upset over Green Bay and the Browns over the
Ravens. This is a divisional game where the opponents know each
other very well. The Jags are a touchdown favorite at home, but
Houston is playing better than they have in previous years. While
Matt Schaub does not have all his weapons, he has done very well
with what he has. In comparison, Dennis Northcutt does not scare
defensive backs, and he is now the number one receiver in a city
where Jimmy Smith was king. Look for this game to be a lot closer
than what odds makers have set it at and avoid the Jags this week.
#3: Arizona over Carolina (5-0):
The second coming of Kurt Warner will start with a big bang.
No longer will Warner come off the field and wonder if and when
he will come in to ignite the offense. He also won’t have
to worry about a huge pass rush from the Panthers as they have
been shut out in the number of sacks that the team has gotten
this year. The city of Phoenix finally has a team to root for,
and they could actually win the NFC West. The first step is winning
the games you are supposed to.
#2: Bears over Minnesota (3-2):
Do the Bears have things back on the right track? Not yet, but
they will have enough to beat the Vikings this week. Tavaris Jackson
should be behind center against a very good but injured Bears
defense while Brian Griese should strike deep and often against
a defense that is better suited to prevent the run than the pass.
If the Redskins can pull the upset this week in Green Bay, then
the Bears will be one game back after almost being left for dead
prior to last week’s upset of the Packers.
#1: San Diego over Oakland (5-0):
It’s about time. What has Norv Turner done in San Diego?
This team should be rolling up the points on everyone while shutting
out offenses. It’s amazing that they host the 1st place
Raiders and are in a must-win situation. Dominic Rhodes will be
splitting time in the backfield with either Justin Fargas or Lamont
Jordan (depending on Jordan’s health but it won’t
matter) after his four-week suspension for steroid use. And while
Daunte Culpepper seems to be getting up to speed, the Charger
defense should be able to chase him down. The point spread screams
WARNING, but if you haven’t used the Chargers yet, this
might be that week.
For responses to this week's fantasy
question or to share your LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football
Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live,
on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio
on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived
programs are also available.